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Soviet-Era Space Shuttle in Bahrain Sold to a German Museum

This sounds like the kind of story Bruce Sterling would write: The German magazine Spiegel has a couple of news stories about a Soviet-era shuttle prototype, the Buran 002, that surfaced in Bahrain and has now been purchased by a German museum, the Sinsheim Automotive and Technical Museum. [Spiegel links in German.]

"Wir haben Ende 2003 einen Kaufvertrag abgeschlossen", erklärte Michael Walter, 41, Geschäftsführer des Sinsheimer Museums, gegenüber SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Sobald der Shuttle auf das Schiff verladen ist, gehört er uns." ["We went to contract on the sale at the end of 2003," explained Michael Walter, 41, Business Manager of the Sinsheim Museum, to Spiegel Online. "As soon as the shuttle is loaded onto the ship, it's ours."]

(Click here for Spiegel's photos.) Apparently, a businessman had it shipped to Australia as a tourist attraction for the Sydney Olympics, but didn't sell many tickets. Somehow, the shuttle made its way to Bahrain via Singapore. Here is an English language discussion of the shuttle from Mosnews.com.

The Soviet Union had six active and several test Burans. The location of most of them is unknown. After the single flight in 1988, the program quickly ran out of funds, as the Soviet Ministry of Defense realized the lack of purpose for the system, compared to its tremendous cost. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the program was essentially shut down and, in 1993, the head of NPO Energia, Yuri Semenov, publicly admitted that the project was dead.

MEANWHILE, a cosmonaut who flew the Buran was beaten up by police in a racist attack:

Two Moscow policemen beat up a Russian cosmonaut who had a “Chechen” surname, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported on Friday.

The incident took place near the Vykhino metro station in south-east Moscow on Thursday night. Colonel Magomed Tolboyev was stopped by two police sergeants for a routine document check. After the law enforcers saw the colonel’s name, which suggests he is of Caucasian Muslim descent, they started beating him up. The beating stopped only after passers-by called the police station. Before leaving the attackers said: “Get away from here, you black, and tell your kinsmen we will strangle all of you, whatever the cost.”

Colonel Magomed Tolboyev is a distinguished test pilot; he bears the country’s top honorary title Hero of Russia. During his space career Tolboyev was commander of Russia’s first and only space shuttle — the Buran.

(Thanks Karen.)

See also BoingBoing.